Noise at work
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Noise at work
Over 1 million employees in Great Britain are exposed to levels of noise at their workplace which endanger their hearing. Excessive noise at work is responsible for about 170,000 people suffering from deafness, ringing in the ears and other ear conditions. Be aware that once you lose your hearing you can never get it back.
Are you at risk?
Working in the construction industry means that you are exposed to an increased noise level. Tools that can cause hearing loss are commonly used on construction sites, such as hammers, pneumatic impact tools, drills and chainsaws.
Symptoms and early signs of hearing loss
Hearing loss tends to evolve gradually, which means that by the time you notice it, it can be too late. The following can be early signs of hearing loss:
- A conversation becomes difficult or impossible.
- Your family complains about the television being too loud.
- You have trouble using the telephone.
- You find it difficult to catch sounds like 't', 'd' and 's', so you confuse similar words.
- You have a permanent tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears).
In April 2006 the new Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force, replacing the Noise at Work Regulations 1989. Based on the Regulations, employers must comply with several duties in order to protect you from suffering hearing damage.
Employers need to find out what levels of noise you are exposed to and assess the risk to your hearing.
Depending on the levels of noise exposure, your employer must:
- Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks.
- Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded.
- Provide the quietest machinery that will do the job.
- Provide you with hearing protection if the exposure to noise cannot be reduced enough through other methods.
- Provide you with information, instruction and training.
- Consult the employees or their representatives.
- Carry out regular health surveillance where there is a risk to health.
- Provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones at a level of 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure).
- Assess the risk to workers' health and provide them with information and training at workplace noise levels of 80 decibels or above.
Workers must not be exposed to a decibel level higher than 87, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.
What you can do
You can protect yourself against hearing loss. This includes:
- Wear the hearing protection you are provided with. Wear it properly (you should be trained how to do this), and make sure you wear it all the time when you are doing noisy work, and when you are in hearing protection areas. Do not take it off even for a short time.• Look after your hearing protection.
- Your employer should tell you how to look after it. Also attend the hearing checks.
- Report any problems with your hearing protection or noise control devices straight away. Let your employer or safety representative know.
HSE Website: Noise at Work: www.hse.gov.uk/noise/
HSE Construction Website: www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/noise.htm
TUC Website www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/noiseandvibration.cfm
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